How Applying the Trait Leadership Theory Impacts Individual Behavior

Eight traits of effective leaders

Organizations become successful when leaders can influence followers to work towards achieving particular goals or objectives. Even though personal traits could not be solely responsible for effective leadership, supporters of trait leadership theory have ascertained that these traits are seen as preconditions that grant people with leadership capabilities. The trait leadership theory asserts that leaders with inherent leadership characteristics are achievement-driven people. The work of Stogdill “showed that the average individual in the leadership role is different from an average group member concerning the following eight traits: intelligence, alertness, insight, responsibility, initiative, persistence, self-confidence, and sociability” (Northouse, 2018, p. 16). Research has revealed that these traits are critical in forging positive relationships between the leader and the follower. These traits also guide the leader’s behavior and influence how a leader interacts with the workplace’s followers.

Creative thinking and extroversion

First, when attempting to discover how the personality traits of a leader can influence behaviors in organizations, it is important to determine the relationship between personality and leadership tactics. The earlier studies by Stogdill on trait leadership theory have revealed that integrated patterns of personal characteristics are critical in nurturing effective leadership. Intelligence is one of the factors thought to associate with effective leadership. In the literature 10 review, it emerged that leaders with inherent characteristics of leadership are mostly extroverted. The basic perception is that being extroverted makes these leaders open to experiences. Further, openness to experience makes leaders with innate leadership attributes to be imaginative, unconventional and adventurous. The reviewed studies also showed that open-minded individuals are likely to be divergent in their thinking. The ability to be diverse in thinking helps leaders to be creative and unconventional. Hence, these individuals influence the behaviors of others through creative thinking.

Achievement drive

The study of Colbert et al. (2012) established that individuals who are open to experience are most likely tolerant to ambiguity and higher preference for complexity. In an organizational setting, followers often tend to listen, mimic or even work on the directives provided by their leaders. In a practical leader-follower relationship, extroverted individuals can guide and influence their followers towards achieving specific organizational goals. Studies reviewed above have also revealed that inborn leadership traits have a high achievement drive. Achievement drive implies a person with attributes such as high levels of effort, great levels of ambition, determination, energy, and initiative. Leaders sensitive to organizational goals and objectives tend to be highly ambitious, energetic, determined, and with a high quest to initiate plans and achieve them. A high achievement drive, coupled with their open-minded character, can collectively help leaders with inborn leadership characteristics to influence followers towards a particular course.


In the literature review above, it emerged that most of the leaders with inborn leadership characteristics are inherently sociable and dominant. From the two aspects, sociability and dominance, it is proper to argue that leaders with inborn leadership traits are likely to be friendly, 11 warm, and gregarious. Leaders need to be tolerant, loving, caring, and charismatic. These traits are important in attracting the attention of the followers. They are also critical in establishing positive work relationships, which are also critical in determining the wellbeing of the employees and their performance at work. The idea that leaders with inborn characteristics are likely to be sociable and dominant helps draw the relationship between the leader’s behavior and implicit influence. With the power to attract followers through applying values such as caring, loving, and charisma, these leaders can help their followers develop positive work relations that are also critical in determining the state of relations at workplaces.

Extroversion and Charisma

Literature has also posited that people with inherent leadership characteristics are capable of inspiring behavioral changes through their motivational abilities. In leadership studies, motivation acts as an internal drive or an external drive that also consists of an internal desire to lead others in achieving particular goals. Previous studies have shown that leaders with inherent leadership traits are extroverted. The extroversion helps these leaders to nurture characteristics such as charisma. Charisma is a behavior characterized by extreme levels of magnetism, attractiveness, captivation, or high levels of appeal. Charismatic leaders have proven effective in influencing relationships and behaviors in workplaces. In his study, Northouse (2018, p. 16) revealed that “charismatic leaders consistently possess traits of self-monitoring, engagement in impression management, motivation to attain social power, and motivation to attain self-actualization.” Hence, leaders born with traits that make them competent in leadership are charismatic and influential in work relations.


Concerning motivation, the term comes from the word motivate. Motivation is an inner or external urge to acquire something or influence others towards acquiring something. Current 12 studies on trait leadership theory have ascertained that personal characteristics are highly associated with increased levels of motivation. A motivated leader is highly ambitious, determined, and aggressive towards achieving a particular initiative. Since motivation is expressed as a deep desire to achieve something, charismatic leaders are likely to influence others to achieve desired organizational and personal goals. Leadership motivation in these leaders is also critical in helping followers develop behaviors that can help them become more competent, goal-driven, and determined. Hence, motivation as a drive occurring from inborn characteristics of a leader could influence how others work and behave in organizations. It can influence how followers perceive organizational goals and create a drive towards achieving the desired organizational goals.


The perception that inborn leadership characteristics influence the behaviors of leaders towards motivation is consistent with the study of Colbert et al. (2012), which explored the concept of conscientiousness. In this study, the researchers revealed that leaders and inherent leadership characteristics are thorough, sensitive, responsible, hardworking, organized, achievement-oriented and preserving. The research of Colbert et al. (2012) also uncovered that conscientiousness is a trait significantly associated with dependability and achievement orientation. Leaders born with leadership skills and capabilities tend to be achievement-oriented. Being achievement-oriented implies that these leaders are always willing to motivate others to work towards achieving the desired goals or objectives. Being responsible, hardworking, and preserving are also traits that indicate that these leaders can stay focused in their course and help their followers towards achieving the desired outcomes.

Honesty and Integrity

Honesty and integrity are some of the traits identified by the traits theory of leadership. The trait leadership theory assumes that leadership is a natural gift often accompanied by desirable levels of integrity and honesty. Leaders who are honest to their work and their followers are likely to influence and nurture similar values in their followers. In an organizational setting, followers tend to emulate the behaviors or character of their leaders. Hence, it is possible that honesty as a value associated with the personality of particular leaders in an organization could influence the followers in their acts and deeds. Integrity is another virtue associated with the trait leadership theory (Hogan & Foster, 2017). The theory assumes that people born with inherent leadership qualities possess high levels of integrity. If that is the case, then leaders endowed with the ability to influence others through applying character and skills can help their followers value integrity and nurture responsible work behaviors in organizations.


The trait theory of leadership has also determined that from a practical end, people born with leadership skills tend to demonstrate high levels of agreeableness compared to others. Agreeableness is a personality trait associated with being cooperative, trusting, tolerant, and caring. When leaders possess these qualities, they tend to influence their followers either through a direct or indirect persuasion. Cooperation is a key factor in enhancing collective effort in organizations. If leaders born with skills to lead others manage to nurture cooperation, then followers are likely to embrace cooperation as a behavior that defines their actions and work culture. Being agreeable sometimes comes with trusting others. Leaders capable of trusting, caring for others, and being tolerant can manipulate personal and work relationships in favor of working towards a common purpose. Hence, traits such as tolerance, caring, and trust can influence how a leader interacts with the followers.

Role Model Trait leaders

All traits listed above define leaders as successful managers of large, small, and medium-sized organizations. Interestingly, recently the online magazine Arabian Business Global published an article about the fifty most successful business leaders of the UAE. The top five included such famous personalities as Etisalat CEO Mohammad Omran Alshamsi and Emaar boss Mohamed Alabbar.

Etisalat is the largest telecommunications provider in the UAE market, which also successfully does business in Morocco, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, Mauritania, Sweden, and China. The company provides mobile communications and high-speed Internet services. Emaar is a real estate development company that has invested in the construction of Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. Mohammad Omran Alshamsi and Mohamed Alabbar are prime examples of Trait leaders and possess most of the personal qualities listed above.

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